Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Business Plans

If, like me, you are trying to do anything new in church-land you've probably been asked to develop a "business plan." This is especially true if you are asking for money to help implement your vision. The expectation that you and your community clearly articulate goals, plans, measurable outcomes and such is not unreasonable, but it can be difficult if you have never done it before. A lot of grant proposals I have read are far too long winded with far too much reference to actual data (even of the subjective sort). But an even bigger problem tends to be that people make these grand plans based on the best information at the time, but as they adapt they never bother to update the old document. It quickly becomes an artifact of the planning stages rather than a useful strategic or operational tool.

At this stage of this ministry's development I've recruited two people to help do the initial brainstorming and planning work: Kirk and Angela. Kirk pointed me to this resource which proposes a much more organic and simplified way of structuring the business plan: The Business Model Canvas. Invented by Alexander Osterwalder, the Business Model Canvas puts all the relevant information into a one-page format. Here is a one-hour lecture explaining the model and giving a real-life case example.

Our first sit-down with the model produced a lot of good material and thoughts, but we have a long way to go to fit things into the categories provided by this particular model. It certainly isn't the only planning document we will ever need, but it will be quite helpful in articulating what we plan to accomplish and how we plan to do it! I appreciate the aesthetics of the BMC model: it's spatial rather than linear and forces one to deal with constraints.
I love this sort of stuff. Thinking about thinking is critical work, especially if you are trying to avoid past traps. I highly recommend using something like this if you into entrepreneurial ministry.

I'll post more as things continue to develop. I have a feeling that the BSC for Messiah Commons is about to take over one of my whiteboards for a while!


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